Everyone that really wants to be a Christian needs to know clearly who Christ is, so that he may be saved, and what He is now doing in the world, in order to also participate in His work.
Before going up to Jerusalem to take part in His last Passover the Lord Jesus asked two questions of His disciples:
No doubt He knew the answer, but He wanted to introduce like this the second question. The people around him had witnessed the signs that He had done, and they had heard His teaching. Evidently He was not any ordinary person; on the contrary, everything indicated that He was a man with supernatural powers, an amazing teacher, endowed with a perfect character, without stain. The disciples answered that people said that He was John the Baptist; others, Elijah; others, Jeremiah or one of the old prophets that resurrected. All had already died, but the people judged that only a resurrected prophet could be as He was, because Jesus was the object of the most surprising news. Although there was divergence in the opinions, all agreed that He was a remarkable person, who should figure among the heroes of the people of God.
Those people needed to discover that Jesus was much more than a simple human being, even a resurrected prophet if this were possible. It seems that the understanding they had of the prophecies of the Old Testament, concerning the Messiah who was to come, was not enough to identify Him in spite of the evidence that He was giving them.
History repeats itself now in our time. A lot is spoken about Jesus, and His identity is discussed all over - romantic films are produced and even documentary programmes with supposed evidence to support or to contradict the Biblical report. The “Passion of Christ”, is a show produced every ten years by the German village of Oberammergau for many centuries, and the hotels there and in the neighbourhood benefit with a great volume of pilgrims and onlookers, besides full coach loads of Evangelical Christians. This spectacle occurs in Brazil every year in various places, the most famous being that of Nova Jerusalem (PE).
In general it is believed that the Lord Jesus was a godly man, a poet, a man of action, a mystic, a model of a saintly man and a great moralist and martyr who stands out from among all the saints. But He declared Himself to be somebody without precedent, unequalled, without rival, unique (for instance, Matthew 10:37; 11:27; 24:35; John 10:30 and 14:6).
That question still remains for each person to answer himself. One cannot doubt His existence, because it is proven by undeniable historical evidences and by the testimony that we have in the Bible of people who were capable and of virtuous character who lived with Him. Their testimony also tells with all reliability the extraordinary signs that He accomplished. Some of the greatest enemies of Christianity recognize His wisdom and His notable character. A lot of answers are given, as confused as the ones in His days, because only a correct answer exists, and that was given by Peter.
The Lord wanted the personal acknowledgement of each one of His disciples, and each one of us also has to admit the identity of our Saviour personally, in order to be able to put our faith in Him and to declare it openly.
Peter didn't hesitate and declared quickly "You are Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16); in other words, he declared that He was the Messiah promised to Israel, He is God, the Son. Peter had accompanied the Lord Jesus closely, with James and John, and knew intimately everything that the Lord had said and done. He was not a credulous person, easily deceived, but he was a self-assured man, honest, impulsive, and ready to speak openly what he thought. He was a reliable witness because he had seen, heard, and proven everything. Hearing Peter's declaration, the Lord Jesus answered that Peter was blessed because this revelation had come to him through God, the Father, not from natural wisdom or intellectual exercise.
It is necessary that we reach the same conclusion that Peter, in order to avail ourselves of the salvation which only comes by the grace of God through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.
He (God the Son) also had something to reveal to Peter (Matthew 16:17-19):
1. Simon Bar-Jonah (his name at birth) was a "stone", (petros) as the ones used in the buildings. Later, Peter wrote: "you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:5). The main matter used in the construction of that spiritual house consists of people, all those that have been saved by grace by faith in Christ's redeeming work, and they are the "living stones."
2. On the "rock", (petra) which is the Lord Jesus himself, He would build His church. This is the first time that the word "church" is used for the group of all believers in Christ. The church is compared to a building in Ephesians 2:19-22, where Jesus Christ is the “foundation stone” and the apostles (including Peter) and the prophets are the “foundation”. This is in consonance with many Scriptures that call Him “the Stone”, or “chief cornerstone” (Psalm 118.22, Matthew 21:42, Ephesians 2:20, etc.), and as such it was understood by Peter (Acts 4:11, 1 Peter 2:6,7).
3. The gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. . “Hades” is a Greek word which corresponds with the Hebrew “sheol” (the invisible world where the dead go). We have here the illustration of two buildings: Christ's church on the Rock, and the House of Death with its gates. These gates are mentioned in the Old Testament (Job 38:17; Psalm 9:13; 107:18; Isaiah 38:10) and the idea is that they only provide an entrance, and allow no exit. But they didn't prevent Christ from leaving, when He arose from the dead and returned to the world of the living, triumphantly. Equally they won't prevail against His church. Having triumphed over death, Christ is the guarantee of its perpetuity. When Christ comes for His church, the dead will resurrect and, together with those still alive, who will be transformed, they will be taken to live eternally with Him. "So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP IN VICTORY. O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING? O HADES, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? … But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 15:54,55,57).
4. To Peter would be given the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. This doesn't mean that Peter had authority to admit people in heaven, as he is said to do in anecdotes. The keys were the authority symbol in the function of the scribes, who interpreted the Scriptures for the people (Nehemiah 8:2-8). The explanation is in Matthew 28:18-20, from where we learn that to the Lord Jesus Christ all authority was given in heaven and earth, and He ordered His disciples “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:18 to 20). And that command was not only given to Peter, but to all His disciples. Every believer has the saving message of the Gospel in their hands and should be capable of transmitting it to others. No man or institution is entitled to exclusive ownership of the Scriptures.
5. Whatever Peter bound on earth would be bound in heaven, and whatever he loosed on earth would be loosed in heaven. “To bind” has the sense here of tying, holding. As in the previous case, it concerns the opening of the Gospel to all people. Peter was pioneering when announcing the Gospel to the Jews, and later when taking the Gospel to the centurion Cornelius, a heathen. He was loosening (opening) the Gospel. But the privilege was not restricted to Peter - it belongs to all who make the same declaration that Peter did on that occasion. It belonged to the other apostles, including Paul who appeared later, and to all who belong to Christ. If we hold the Gospel, without opening it to others, we are tying the sinners to their sin. But if we announce it, we are loosening salvation to the lost ones. And that responsibility is ours, for this is the only way of saving sinners.
On that opportunity, Simon Bar-Jonah represented all those who the Holy Spirit of God leads to recognize that The Lord Jesus is the Son of the living God, and accept HIM as their Saviour and Lord. They are made "stones" in the spiritual building that is called the "Church of Christ", founded upon the Lord Jesus; they have eternal life, and can proclaim the Gospel of salvation by the grace of God through faith in the Lord Jesus, to free those who have been made captive by sin.
When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?"
Now Jesus and His disciples went out to the towns of Caesarea Philippi; and on the road He asked His disciples, saying to them, "Who do men say that I am?"
And it happened, as He was alone praying, that His disciples joined Him, and He asked them, saying, "Who do the crowds say that I am?"
Matthew 16:15, 16:
He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered and said to Him, "You are the Christ."
He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered and said, "The Christ of God."
Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.
And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.
And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."